Samantha Ward

Concert date: 17 April 2015
Reviewed by: JRC

Nadsa's concert season ended with a flourish. Pianist, Samantha Ward, cleverly presented her programme with its crescendo of styles, within a mainly chronological structure.

Scarlatti [1685-1757] Sonatas K11 and K466 were our introduction to this piano recital. The mechanical rendition of K11 immediately gave a period feel to this intricate bright piece which had been composed in the era of the harpsichord. Scarlatti was one of the first composers to have access to the newly invented Fortepiano, and in K466 Samantha certainly allowed herself the use of touch sensitivity in phrasing. The Impromptu No 2 in A flat by Schubert [1797-1828], a very familiar work, took us into a different expanded world of delicacy and sustained overarching phrases.

By the time Beethoven [1770-1827] was writing his Bagatelles Op 126 [intended as a cycle] the 'modern' Pianoforte was being extensively used. Samantha, in these six pieces, gave us a demonstration of the capabilities of this solo instrument via spirited allegros, dramatic fortes, expressive cantabiles, pleasant meanderings of quasi allegretto and the abrupt changes in the last of the six Bagatelles.

The Arabesque in C Op 18 by Schumann [1810-1897] has a well known haunting melody that lyrically opens the work; but closes it in a subdued hush. Here we had been taken firmly into the romantic period, with music written to appeal to female pianists.

Brahms [1833-1897] Sonata No3 in F minor Op 5, whilst being truly romantic, is also a virtuoso work. The opening was dramatic stuff, and left no doubt that Samantha could fill the hall. In supreme contrast the andante was gentle with beautiful crescendos and diminuendos. The Scherzo burst upon us with lots of energy, subsequently developing tunes; but a fourth intermezzo andante movement used the 'fate' rhythm from Beethoven's fifth Symphony: truly menacing. The final movement was certainly virtuoso territory as we were swept to an exhilarating conclusion.

The audience's applause brought Samantha back to play two encores, the first of which was Happy Birthday to celebrate the 90th Birthday of Keith Fergusson, who with his wife, Loveday, had sponsored the concert. The second encore was Schumann's 'Romance' which was the perfect foil for the exuberance of Brahms, and Samantha's, virtuosity.